Ministering Despite Anxiety: How to Start Ministering

Car with bumper sticker that states, "If I honk, you've been home taught"

Elder Holland: “Be With and Strengthen Them” April 2018

Getting a new ministering assignment can be daunting. Plus, the whole idea of ministering might still be intimidating to you (even a year and a half after hearing about the Church’s shift from home and visiting teaching to ministering, announced April 2018).

As a person with social anxiety, I’ve been there!

Storytime

When I saw my new ministering assignment on my Member Tools app, I was deflated.

I’d only been in the ward for a little under six months, and my assignment had already changed entirely. It seemed I had barely gotten to know either of the ladies I had been assigned to or my companion, and now I had three new assignments and a new companion. I had met my new companion once or twice, but I didn’t know any of the sisters to whom we were assigned.

Basic, awful questions occupied my mind for days: What if they don’t like me? What if they’d just be better off living their lives without me wasting their time? What if I invite them out for ice cream and find out they’re allergic to dairy? What if they’re huggers!?

I prayed to know how to serve these ladies. I hoped to receive some specific advice, to be told exactly what they needed right then.

Instead, I distinctly felt the Lord tell me this important counsel:

“Just do something.”

So I did! Thanks to the help of an involved, inspired ministering companion, I didn’t have to go by myself to meet the first of those gals. We just set up a time to sit down with her for a half hour and talk. It was a little awkward for the first few minutes, but I quickly found out we had several things in common. That meeting gave me more confidence to meet with the others by myself when scheduling a meeting three ways became difficult.

When deciding how to meet with the second sister, I decided to take her out to lunch with a gift card I had hanging around. I quickly discovered that she was really cool and easy to talk to!

The third sister was difficult to make and keep contact with, but I was blessed enough to catch her at home, meet her and her cute family, and drop off a treat. Even though she was still very hard to contact, she seemed genuinely grateful for the thought and the gift.

After I had finally met each of these sisters, I prayed again to know what to do for them. Again, I just felt: “Just do something!”

So I did! Over the next many months, with one or more of them, and with and without my companion, I went to a hot springs, got frozen yogurt, helped with a school service project, went for walks, gave rides, sat together at church, personally delivered handouts from Relief Society when they weren’t there, held a game night, texted on birthdays, and hosted a family home evening and cookout. And, of course, I prayed for them and their circumstances.

I don’t think any of this was really a big deal. Many of these things I was already doing; I just tried to remember to involve these sisters in my life.

But what was a big deal is that they became my friends. They gave me somebody to sit by at church events in a ward where I felt alone, invited me to their activities, helped me get ready for baby, and became my support. In fact, one sister was one of the only people in my life who took care of me when I was practically bedridden for months during pregnancy.

Of course, I’ve felt God’s approval and blessing as I’ve served, but most of it didn’t really feel like serving.

Get to the point

I like to say: ministering is assigned friendship. I’m certain that, in part, it is there for folks like me who stress over knowing how to love and help others. It’s that little kick in the pants that says, “just do something for someone!”

Photo by Anna Vander Stel on Unsplash

I have grown in confidence as I’ve learned to trust that God gives me my ministering assignments for a “wise purpose in Him.” (1 Nephi 9:5) It may be easy to think this means we have something special to offer these people we are assigned to, but just as much or even more, I feel that they have something special to offer us. 

I am so not the perfect ministering sister, and I apologize to those to whom I’ve been assigned and failed to serve well. But I’m trying, I’m learning, and I know that, despite my imperfect actions, the Lord has blessed me for it.

A step further

As I’ve learned how to minister better, there’s something else I’m learning and so imperfectly trying to begin to act upon:

We shouldn’t need an assignment to minister.

We have already been called to do just that to everybody.

All who have been baptized by proper authority have been commanded to:

“…bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

“…mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort”

Mosiah 18:9-10

Indeed, Christians everywhere are charged:

“…love one another; as I have loved you…

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples.”

John 13:34-35

I see ministering as a merciful chance to narrow the scope. Of course, we should still attempt to love and bear the burdens of everyone around us, but that can be so very daunting! I’m grateful that God has given us a place to start. He knows how limited we are, so He gives us just a little to start working out our weak little charity muscles.

I second the testimony of Brett Hamblin, as shared by Elder Holland: “The Church provides us a structured way to live the second commandment better—to love, serve, and develop relationships with our brothers and sisters that help us move closer to God.” (Be With and Strengthen Them, 2018)

What to do

If you’re like me, you might feel really awkward getting started ministering.

Maybe it’s been months since you’ve received your ministering assignment, and it feels like your socially-acceptable window of time to reach out has completely passed. Or maybe you’ve visited those you were assigned to once and don’t know what else to do. Perhaps it seems like those to whom you are assigned have everything under control and don’t need or want your help. Or you might be coming to the dreaded conclusion that your companion will never get back to you and that you’re going to have to do the ministering thing by yourself.

May I just say:

Just do something!

Start now. Don’t worry about it being the wrong thing. God will bless your efforts. Involve Him in those efforts, but remember that He trusts you.

“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

“For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.”

Doctrine and Covenants 58:26 – 28

What do you think?

Do you have experiences with “just doing something” as you’ve ministered? How has ministering blessed you? How will you get started ministering?

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